Schools face a “shambles of the SNP’s creation” over rushed changes to assessments in the curriculum, the Scottish Conservatives have warned today.
It comes after one teacher said that senior secondary pupils face a “jumbled up” system when they return for the new academic year – with some schools likely to continue with unit assessments, while others drop them.
Reforms by education secretary John Swinney to scrap the unit assessments in an effort to reduce teacher workload come into effect this year.
However, the plans have been criticised by teachers who warned that, far from cutting teacher workload, they may actually increase it.
They have also led to confusion after the SNP government subsequently declared that, in some “fall back” cases, the assessments would continue to ensure that all pupils left school with a qualification.
The row comes with exam results due to arrive on doormats this week.
Speaking on Good Morning Scotland today, one teacher said that the new system was “jumbled up” – adding that schools would end up interpreting the new reforms differently.
Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary Liz Smith said:
“John Swinney’s attempt to solve one problem has only created another even bigger mess.
“As teachers are already warning, pupils returning to secondary school next week are facing a shambles of the SNP’s creation – a rushed change to assessment, pushed through with hardly any consultation, which now risks confusing everybody.
“John Swinney was explicitly warned about the impact of these plans when he announced them but he decided to push them through in an attempt to appease the unions.
“Pupils and teachers are now going to pay the price.
“This entire chaotic reform has had all the hallmarks of this SNP government: distracted from the day job, unwilling to listen to people on the ground, and forced to spend most of its time mopping up its own mistakes.
“There now must be a concerted effort, from the Scottish Government and the SQA, to address the confusion that teachers are facing, so that the changes do not cause any more disruption as is necessary.”
Notes to editors:
1. Interview with teacher Olivia Drennan on Radio Scotland at 1:08 this morning http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08z9dtn#play
2. In evidence to the Scottish Parliament’s Education Committee, teachers warned that the new system would “end up failing pupils.” Teacher Mark Melrose said: “Now that we have composite classes, with the removal of the units from national 5, it will become very difficult. For example, the school at which I am in placement just now finds it hard and feels that it is letting kids down because it has to make a call very early on about whether a child will be national 4 level—in which case it has to cover the added-value unit as well as the others—or at national 5 level. What should it do if a child is doing fine at national 5 and gets to the end, but then fails? With the old system, national 5s had a fallback, and in the standard grade system, there were the fallbacks of credit to general and general to foundation. I think that the present system will end up failing pupils.” (10 May 2017, http://www.parliament.scot/parliamentarybusiness/report.aspx?r=10939)
3. Teachers have warned that the reforms will result in a heavier workload. A SSTA (Scottish Secondary Teachers Association) survey noted that 63 per cent of more than 800 respondents said that they believed the proposed changes would result in a heavier workload, with a further 18 per cent saying they would make no difference (The Times, 11 March 2017, link).
4. The SNP government was warned the abolition of unit assessments would disadvantage pupils.. Concern about the withdrawal of this “fallback facility” led Aberdeenshire’s 17 secondary heads to write a joint letter to Mr Swinney in February, expressing their fears (TES, April 2017, link).